Water as an opportunity for brands to drive strategic value

Discussions of how the company sector can deal with the impacts of water shortage, poor high quality and lack of entry to protected ingesting water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have been ongoing for a while. It’s now acknowledged that water challenges affect enterprise development, financial growth, social well-being and ecosystem well being. It is also acknowledged the personal sector has a novel position — and alternative — in addressing these challenges.

On the 2021 Stockholm World Water Week, hosted this summer time by the Stockholm Worldwide Water Institute (SIWI), I had the pleasure of convening a panel about how water shouldn’t solely be seen as a danger to companies, however extra importantly, how it may be considered as a chance to drive strategic worth. This text shares highlights from the dialog, which included numerous company water specialists throughout industries: AB InBev, Hole Inc., World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Alliance for International Water Adaptation (AGWA). The panelists explored how water constraints could be seen as a catalyst for creativity and innovation.

By embedding water technique into enterprise technique, corporations can create water affect not solely operationally and throughout the availability chain, but in addition by way of workers and clients who need to work for, and store with, manufacturers that align with their values.

Because the world continues to grapple with water insecurity, and local weather change solely exacerbates the difficulty, the problem throughout stakeholder teams — from the personal and public sector to NGOs, entrepreneurs, buyers and past — is to consider how we reside and function in in the present day’s local weather, whereas making ready for future eventualities. Corporations have a chance to contribute to creating sustainable and resilient communities and companies for individuals and the planet. 


Shifting the main target from danger to alternative

The specialists on the World Water Week panel talked about the necessity to shift the notion of water as a social and sustainability situation to water as a enterprise situation.

The worth water can derive is best as an instance when it may be linked again to delivering long-term worth to shareholders. This may be carried out by:

  1. Growing a method to combine water stewardship into manufacturers to extend engagement with clients and shoppers;
  2. Proactively speaking water stewardship commitments and efficiency to the corporate workforce to enhance engagement, recruiting and retention; and
  3. Aligning a water stewardship technique with enterprise development and targets.

The significance of getting a company water technique that may illustrate the bottom-line affect it derives will solely enhance, as companies throughout a spread of sectors discover themselves deeply affected by the a number of water crises at play in the present day. Corporations should acknowledge that they’ll solely thrive when the communities alongside their worth chains thrive — and no neighborhood on this planet can thrive with out water. This was a central theme of the panel.

Technique and stewardship ought to go hand-in-hand

One other essential matter throughout the panel was the truth that, once we speak about water technique and stewardship, technique shouldn’t substitute stewardship; it’s an added dimension.

Alexis Morgan, international water stewardship lead at WWF, mentioned how for corporations, danger drives engagement, whereas worth drives funding. It is typically the case {that a} company’s water journey begins as a compliance situation. It then evolves to stewardship as a result of there is a recognition that there are numerous merchandise you’ll be able to’t make with out water; thus, participating native stakeholders and addressing basin-specific water wants helps mitigate water danger and construct resilience. From there, an organization can evolve to the technique part when it’s proactively investing in innovation. Suppose new methods, new enterprise fashions, new merchandise. By integrating water technique into different components of the enterprise, corporations can drive worth creation.

A wholesome ecosystem — pushed by wholesome individuals and thriving companies — contributes to a constructive general affect.

Morgan shared how, by way of WWF’s work with companies on their water methods, he was typically struck by how a lot of the dialogue was risk-oriented as an alternative of opportunity-driven and famous it typically felt as if he had been pushing an enormous rock uphill. The chance dialogue sequesters an organization right into a sure a part of enterprise, once you actually should be speaking to gross sales, advertising and marketing, finance, the C-suite. In any case, water is valued in another way by completely different entities, so it is important as an instance how water appeals to all of them, and that have to be carried out by linking water methods basically to enterprise methods.

The sooner that connection is made, the better it’s going to be to maneuver the needle on an efficient, and holistic, company water technique. Begin with technique and alternative, not danger, and you will expertise much less of an uphill battle from there.

This view of water additionally being a chance for companies was shared by Samantha Fahrbach, international director of water and sustainability operations at ABInBev, and Paul Fleming, an knowledgeable on company water technique.

Fahrbach highlighted the constructive affect of ABInBev on the communities by which it operates, stating, “Even past our product, and even perhaps extra basically, as an organization, we consider that our enterprise solely thrives when our communities thrive — and no neighborhood on this planet can thrive with out water.” This goes past simply framing water as an operational enterprise danger and as an alternative as a constructive affect for the communities.

Fleming, previously with Microsoft, believes {that a} company water stewardship technique can create a win for corporations and communities. For instance, by way of Microsoft rolling out its water-positive dedication, the corporate checked out how its merchandise, companies, clients and workers might be a part of its water technique and dedication. Additionally, its Local weather Innovation Fund and a $10 million funding in a enterprise fund is anticipated to have a constructive affect on addressing water and local weather challenges, creating new alternatives for companies and the communities Microsoft is a part of.

Constructing climate-resilient corporations and communities

Lisa Hook, senior supervisor for water stewardship at Hole, talked about how water is strategic to her firm. She outlined three principal causes:

  1. It is aligned to Hole’s enterprise values. Hole is a purpose-driven firm that is inclusive by design. Most essential, basically, Hole believes water is a human proper. It is essential for the corporate to take motion to have a constructive affect for the communities touched by its enterprise.
  2. It’s important to Hole’s enterprise. The attire business depends on water — and has impacts to each water amount and high quality. Rising cotton requires a big quantity of water, and cotton is commonly grown in water-stressed areas. In the meantime, pesticides used to develop cotton and dyes utilized in manufacturing can have an effect on the water high quality. 
  3. Sturdy enterprise depends on sturdy, resilient communities. The communities by which Hole operates depend on the identical water techniques for his or her wants as the corporate does for its enterprise. By collaborating with communities and native stakeholders to unravel water challenges, Hole believes it will possibly flip these points into shared worth as soon as resolved. That equates to a extra resilient future for the neighborhood and its individuals, for enterprise, and for the ecosystems and the economies of these locations.

Based on Hook, these three elements mixed make it simple for Hole to see there’s strategic worth in water and there is a enterprise case for why the group shouldn’t simply care about it however deal with it as the valuable useful resource it’s.

There’s a lot different corporations can acquire from taking an identical strategy. We should all perceive that water impacts are shared by companies and industries that function inside the similar watersheds. A wholesome ecosystem — pushed by wholesome individuals and thriving companies — contributes to a constructive general affect.

Water is the place individuals, planet and enterprise come collectively.

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